City reminds residents to clear away their brush

SAN DIEGO - City of San Diego officials Monday reminded residents to take steps to protect their property against wildfires by clearing away brush.

"Fire safety is everyone's responsibility," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said. "The city is doing its part by increasing funding for brush management efforts within our open space parks and canyons. Homeowners also must take common-sense steps to protect themselves because we are all in this together."

He added that all residents should have an evacuation plan in place.

"Be prepared; create those defensible spaces, have that emergency plan ready, discuss it with your entire family and particularly your children," said Faulconer.

The city's brush management regulations require all homes in wildland-urban interface areas -- where the backyards of homes meet canyon vegetation or other types of open space -- to have 100 feet of defensible space and take other precautions to help prevent the spread of wildfires.

In the coming months, the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department will be conducting door-to-door inspections to help educate residents and make sure they are properly clearing brush around their homes.

"Fires can go from bad to worse in a very short time, so firefighters need every advantage they can get in order to successfully protect homes," said Councilman Mark Kersey, who represents the area where a 1,600-acre wildfire started in May.

""I was evacuated in '07 and that was a harrowing experience. This time, since I've done it before, it wasn't my first rodeo and so I had a better idea of what I should take and not take. It is critical that homeowners are proactive in doing their part so, in turn, firefighters can do their jobs more effectively," he said.

City officials said San Diego has more than 500 linear miles of wildland-urban interface, and years of drought have increased the flammability of vegetation.

"I've said it before, but it bears repeating: when a wildfire strikes, we won't always be able to save every house in its path," San Diego fire Chief Javier Mainar said. "Prepare long before the threat of a wildfire so your home is ready in case of a fire. Help us save your house. We're looking in the city of San Diego for a 50 percent reduction in the fuel mass behind homes and that's the first 35 feet of your home are typically landscaped but the next 65 feet, we would like to see that fuel reduction take place."

Homeowners should trim trees so they are at least 10 feet from a residence and clear debris from roofs and gutters, city officials said.

Mark Catrambone is a believer. His home in Poway was threatened by the fire there several years ago but he had new landscaping.

"It saved our home and had we had the growth that some of the other homes had with the big trees right around the house and mature shrubs, no clearing, that house probably wouldn't have been saved," said Catrambone.

The city's Brush Management Guide is online, and can be downloaded at sandiego.gov/fire/pdf/brushpdf.pdf.

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